APU Environmental Original

Egyptian Geese: Why a Non-Native Species Can Cause Problems

By David Zimmerman
Alumnus, Environmental Policy and Management; Vice President, APUS Chapter of the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP); and LEED® Green AssociateTM

Note: A version of this article was previously published in the NAEP student chapter newsletter.

When my family moved into our house in Germany in November 2021, we noticed what we thought were unique ducks. For the longest time, we referred to them as our “Germany ducks” since they lived in a field near our house.

It was not until a few months ago my son Trevor decided to try to figure out what these birds were called. He discovered that they are actually Egyptian geese, and they are considered an invasive species in many countries in Europe.

According to a 2016 risk assessment of Egyptian geese performed by Polish researchers Karolina Mazurska and Solarz Wojciech, these birds are considered invasive in 10 European Union nations, including:

  • Great Britain
  • The Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Spain
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Poland

Egyptian geese were originally introduced to Europe for the waterfowl collections of private parks, urban parks and zoos due to their unique appearance.

Two adult Egyptian geese with their three goslings. Image courtesy of author.    

Why Are Egyptian Geese Considered an Invasive Species?

The determination to list the Egyptian goose as invasive in Europe is due to its aggressive territorial behavior. According to Mazurska and Wojciech, “The negative ecological impact on native goose and duck species occur in the form of hybridization, competition for food, competition for nesting sites, introduction and spread of diseases.” The authors also noted that they know to take over mallards and other shelducks nesting sites.

Researchers Beth Mackay, Rob Little, Arjun Amar and Phil A.R. Hockey noted in a 2014 Journal of Wildlife Management article that Egyptian geese are even listed as an agricultural pest on their home continent. Over the last 20 years in South Africa, Egyptian geese experienced a population increase of 163%, and there was significant damage to agricultural pastures caused from feeding and trampling.

In European countries, Egyptian geese populations have notably increased, especially during mottling season where huge populations spikes are noted. As a result, the geese have caused increased damage to European crops.

Introducing a Non-Native Species Requires Careful Consideration of the Consequences

Introducing a non-native species such as Egyptian geese to a country is often a recipe for disaster much of the time. Animals have an ingrained survival instinct and will take whatever natural resources they need to survive, which often results in habitat loss for the native species. We must consider the consequences, both intended and unintended, when we consider introducing a non-native animal or plant to an environment.

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About the Author

David Zimmerman is an environmental physical scientist with the U.S. Army in Landstuhl, Germany, and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green AssociateTM. He holds an associate degree in general studies, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a master’s degree in environmental policy and management, all from American Military University. In addition, David has earned certificates in environmental science, water quality standards, leadership development and environmental coordinator supervision. He serves as the Vice President of the University’s chapter of the National Association of Environmental Professionals.

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